Sunday, April 08, 2007

CIRQUE Du SOLEIL’S LOVE (A Stage Show Review)

The average person is well-familiar with Beatles music and that creates a sort of built-in audience. Their catalog is big enough that a lot of interesting subjects can be explored in the storytelling. Most important is the amount of life-affirming music to choose from. McCartney is a master of using that catalog to create a great concert experience.

LOVE begins with BECAUSE from ABBEY ROAD, a somber song no doubt, but made disjointed here by a mix that goes dead silent in between lines. On stage we see somber pageantry. Thankfully it then picks up with GET BACK, but it never sustains any kind of uplifting mood. On stage, a big thing is made of the Liverpool bombings during World War II that coincided with the band member’s birth. The stage is made to look like buildings and rooftops and the staging shows the whole thing being blown to smithereens.

The fun of the Beatles crazy or downbeat music is that those tunes are sandwiched between songs with other temperaments. Here we get nothing but long stretches of one depressing tune on top of the other. Glass onion, Eleanor Rigby, Julia, I am the Walrus back to back to back to back pretty near the beginning of the show. You don’t know how welcome DRIVE MY CAR became after that lineup. A short portion of THE WORD made it next and it was too short-lived. If you’re going to call the show LOVE, the song THE WORD is a great choice for a sequence, because it’s not overplayed and yet has a great catchy sound. They might get 30 seconds out of it here.

The most brutal part of the show was an attempted comedy bit using the song BLACKBIRD. Four people fly into the stage dressed as blackbirds and a Frenchy guy recites the song like a poem as the birds struggle to fly. It was a pathetic attempt at humor and a poor choice of material.

Later in the show the whimsical LADY MADONNA and OCTOPUS’S GARDEN get some time on stage. Four George Harrison numbers, SOMETHING, HERE COMES THE SUN, WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS, and WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU are featured pretty prominently I suppose to make quota.

The one really truly great sequence is the choreography that accompanies A DAY IN THE LIFE. That piece was inspired in a way that nothing else in the show can match.

The stunts are ho-hum especially compared to La Nuba at Disney. The big stunt near the end was cancelled due to safety net issues so I may have missed the most exciting thing. While they were trying to fix the problem, the video screens showed us the cartoon rendition of Yellow Submarine as the song played. The only other stunt sequence was a rollerblading part that was a re-tread of every other rollerblading number you’ve seen.

The first time I saw Cirque du Soleil at Disney I said wow. When I saw the same show the second time I thought it was decently done. When I went back a third time I could barely stay awake. This was far less exciting and the musical selection was mostly disappointing. As a big Beatles fan I can appreciate the more obscure songs, but I can’t forgive the mood they chose. How this show could have used GOOD DAY SUNSHINE, GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE, GETTING BETTER, and WE CAN WORK IT OUT to offset the negativity.

Trade thrills for gloomy pageantry and upbeat music for downbeat music and you have a synopsis of LOVE at the Mirage, a missed opportunity to say the least. I should have seen PENN AND TELLER instead.

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